Standard Operating Procedure


standardoperatingprocedureWhen you think about the Iraq War, what image comes to mind? The photos documenting the abuse committed by U.S. soldiers against Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2003 is a likely candidate. In this documentary, Erroll Morris interviews most of the soldiers who committed the crimes, as well as Brigadier General Janis Karpinski and Tim Dugan, one of the investigators. Effectively filmed with the director’s Interrotron, the interviews become an opportunity for these people to tell us their side of the story straight in our face; the results are quite revealing, but also help complicate the issue of where one draws the line between “standard operating procedure” and torture. Still, the question of where the ultimate responsibility lies remains largely unanswered. Cinematographer Robert Richardson makes the re-enactments visually arresting.

2008-U.S. 116 min. Color. Produced by Julie Ahlberg, Errol Morris. Directed by Errol Morris. Cinematography: Robert Chappell, Robert Richardson. Music: Danny Elfman.

Quote: “If you’re there, and you consider yourself already dead, you can do all the shit you have to do. I wouldn’t recommend a vacation to Iraq anytime soon.” (Dugan)

Last word: “You have the material in the movie, when Brent Pack tells you it’s standard operating procedure, he’s telling you it’s military policy. This is not a violation of the policy that they were given, it’s an expression of it. That in itself is extraordinarily powerful. I am going to write more stuff. I’m going to write my essays if I ever have the time to do it. I wanted to make a movie about the photographs and the people who took the photographs, and the kind of bizarre misdirection created by the photographs. I wanted to make that movie. There are lots of other movies to make. There’s lots of other stories to tell. There’s a story that involves the higher ups.” (Morris,

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